“You can intrude whenever you want,” Ash winked. She stopped near the weathered front door. It was as rustic as the old wood logs, wood and greyed out with time and from withstanding the harsh elements throughout the years.

“So, you’re really thinking about giving up the store?”

“I would still go in for games night now and then. I’d still see everyone.” She turned and looked off into the distance, where the lake shone on in an endless blue that seemed to touch the very horizon. “Besides. I’m not going to have time for that, the writing, you, this place, and a baby.”

Trace nearly fell over. He stumbled, reached out, and set his hand on the soft grey log. “I’m sorry- what?”

Ash whirled, a huge smile lighting her face. She was radiant, beautiful, his queen. “Yes. Are you- is that okay? I mean, I know we’ve talked about it in abstract. I- I know we weren’t trying or not trying, but I’ve been off the pill for four months now and we weren’t exactly careful.”

“I- I just didn’t think it would happen so fast. I thought they said it takes six months for the pill to even completely leave your system.”

“Well, obviously it didn’t take that long. It’s not for lack of trying either.”

Trace finally recovered. He pushed away from the cabin. He scooped Ash up in his arms and held her close against his chest. He planted a firm kiss on her lush mouth. That kiss stirred something else. He couldn’t wait to take her inside that cabin, hell, maybe outside too, and let her know just how happy he was, just how much he loved her.

“A baby,” he said breathlessly. “I- I know we talked about it, but it always seemed so abstract. I’m still in shock, but once the idea sinks in, I know I’m going to be a wreck.”

Ash stroked his cheek. “You won’t be a wreck. You’ll be perfect, like you always are.”

“I might cry. I might bawl.” He stared at her stomach in wonder. “I can’t believe there’s a baby growing in there.”

“It’s early. I just found out before we left. I took the test. I’m only a month along, so we still have lots of time to make plans and get everything ready. And if you cry… that’s okay. I did. I wanted to tell you when we were out on the lake here, catch you by surprise.”

“Obviously that worked.”

“Yes.” She stroked his cheek again before she tangled her fingers in his hair. “I’m so excited. I can’t wait. A little Mr. or Miss Nightshadow.”

Trace’s laugh boomed through the woods. The lake echoed the sound back strangely, wildly, mysteriously. He spun Ash around in a circle before he set her down. He gripped her shoulders and kissed her again. “I love you, Ash. So damn much. I can’t believe this is ours. This island, this place, this life. I love that we’re a family. You and me. My sister and my mom. Your parents and your brother. I love it all. Slappy…”

“I’m not sure he’s going to be excited to be a big brother.”

“He’ll adjust. We’ll bring him out here next time. He’ll love it.”

“You think he’d like the long drive and the boat ride too?”

“Probably not, but he’d miss us if we left him behind.”

“He’s an old cat, but maybe he’d like it out here. He’d probably love getting into trouble and chasing birds and mice and basking in the sun. This was a really, really good surprise.”

“I like yours better.”

“Me too,” Ash laughed. She set a hand on her flat stomach. Her other hand gripped his. “Should we go see what you’ve bought?”

“I’m almost afraid to open the door.”

“Nothing is so bad it can’t be fixed.” Ash turned her face and the love there stopped his heart. He still couldn’t believe, even after a few years together, that she was his. “This is going to be our second home. It’s going to be a great place to write. Honestly, I didn’t expect it, but I can’t wait. Change is good. This change is good.”

“Let’s go then.”

They walked into the cabin together, into their future, into the promise of a new adventure and many more years of laughter and board games, grouchy cats and bad jokes, families and astoundingly- children. Ash didn’t even know about the ring in his pocket. She’d got to announce her surprise before he could fully complete his.

He’d ask her soon enough, under the endless blue sky, on their island.

He couldn’t wait for her to be his wife and for them to truly be a family. It was more than anything he’d ever dared to hope for. She was his and he was hers. Always. Her Nightshadow.

The End

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